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Online age check

As a user experience designer at Rewe Digital, my focus is primarily on analytical and continuous development. This means that I always aim to combine user needs with the business needs of the company. Short-term successes are worthwhile, but long-term successes should be the goal.

This case study shows that we have found a way to meet a challenging legal requirement through several iterations that don’t interrupt the user’s journey.

Rewe Digital is a subsidiary of Rewe, one of the largest retail companies in Europe (turnover in 2020: around 75 billion.) Rewe Digital’s task is to develop digital services and products within e-commerce, fulfillment, and the digitalization of stationary markets. As User Experience Team, we work within an agile environment in different Tribes (eCom, Content/stationary, and fulfillment).

Mock-up of an Apple Macbook Pro. It shows a screenshot of shop.rewe.de. 
It is shown to describe what kind of items will be age checked.
Mock-up – shop.rewe.de – Search results for “Gin”

Germany has stringent rules on selling alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

We were faced with the challenge that alcohol and tobacco products are only allowed to people of appropriate age in Germany. In Germany, beer and wine can only be sold to people over 16 and tobacco only to people over 18. However, it is relatively difficult to determine who is actually using the device. The supplier could check the age of the person when delivering the order. This can be reliably assumed for our own delivery drivers but not for other service providers such as DHL or DPD. That is why there was a legal requirement that the age of the buying person has to be checked online.

Problem Statement

As a User, I want to buy every item offered on shop.rewe.de despite an age restriction. Therefore, I want to be able to verify my age while shopping.

Checking the age during the checkout process

Various providers who were able to meet the requirements were validated for checking the age. An extremely high level of legal certainty was an important goal, which is why user data should be checked reasonably carefully. At the same time, we wanted it not to disrupt the purchasing process too much, which is why a quick check is essential. A time delay in the test would cause too many users to cancel. Now our main challenge was that we have to collect the data from the user at the right moment. It was also crucial that the user was transparently informed about handling his data and that the process was self-explanatory. If an age check turns out negative, users should still buy part of the purchase.

Flow Chart – Age check while checkout when all necessary data is entered.
Flow Chart – Age check while checkout when all necessary data is entered.

First drafts and Hallway test

At first, we were very skeptical ourselves, and in many discussions, we questioned precisely how necessary this initiative is and how we can keep it as lean as possible. Because one thing is obvious: This feature will not contribute to more people shopping, but the most significant challenge is to have as few cancellations as possible and that we still have a transparent flow that remains comprehensible overall.

In our first drafts & tests, we quickly realized that the association with a third-party age check would be the biggest problem. The process itself, and the additional input of data, are simple. We have ensured that people only have to do this check once before changing basic account information.

The data required for the test (date of birth) are entered after entering the address. The address is also one of the data relevant for the test. The test cannot be carried out without the address. That’s why we decided to place this check in the checkout context as well.

Very first Axure prototype for testing some of our ideas and assumptions.
Very first Axure prototype for testing some of our ideas and assumptions.

Usability Test

We started a test with a relatively early version. We interviewed eight people and got pretty clear feedback which helped us a lot. Before the test, we created a guide that put our test probands in an exact situation, making them have to buy alcohol and tobacco and first enter an address that did not match their own data. As a result, we were also able to evaluate the scenario of a negative test and received insights into the solution options we proposed. Our insights:

  • Excessive naming of the third party leads to a lack of understanding
  • The exam itself is understandable for many and is generally rated positively.
  • The density of information is too high and is not perceived
  • The offered solution options are partly used, but more intuitive solutions are also found.
An Axure prototype that shows a version that is close to the later implemented version of the online age check.
An Axure prototype that shows a version that is close to the later implemented version of the online age check.

Offer content and solutions in the proper context.

Building on the usability test, we developed further iterations and decided to prepare the information more visually and divide it up differently. The context is explained more clearly with the help of an illustration. The texts are shorter and more concise. The third-party provider is still mentioned, but much more cautiously. If the check is negative, the user is now offered more suitable solutions. When entering the date of birth, it is clearly indicated again whose date of birth must be entered.

Conclusion

The age check in the checkout is rolled out slowly, and the effects are carefully checked. In the next major UX test, we will take another look at the feature to collect further insights.

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